Tech: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff seems to have had a big change of heart on Apple CEO Tim Cook, and thanked him publicly for his activism (CRM, AAPL)

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Marc Benioff

In the wake of a partnership between Apple and Salesforce, Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff has had a change of heart about Apple's CEO Tim Cook.

  • In the wake of a newly-announced partnership between Apple and Salesforce, Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff seems to have had a change of heart about Apple's CEO Tim Cook.
  • He publicly thanked Cook for his work on "gender equality" — after previously condemning him for not doing enough on that exact same issue.
  • Benioff also seemed to acknowledge Salesforce's own recent missteps regarding its contract to serve US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

In the wake of a new partnership between Apple and Salesforce, Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff seems to have had a change of heart about Apple's CEO Tim Cook.

On stage at during Benioff's keynote at Salesforce's enormous Dreamforce tech conference taking place this week in San Francisco, Benioff said:

"Thank you to Apple for becoming a strategic partner. Thank you, Tim Cook. Thank you for fighting for gender equality. Thank you for fighting for equality and love in our industry. You are somebody in our industry we all can follow."

It's not exactly clear what he's referring to when it comes to crediting Cook with fighting for gender equality. Earlier this year, Apple released a gender pay gap analysis for its workers in the UK, where such disclosures are now required by law. Apple's report showed that the company pays women equally to their male counterparts. The report also shows that Apple's workforce is about 30% women, which is about average for the tech industry.

As for fighting for "equality and love," Benioff is likely talking about how Cook publicly came out as gay back in 2014. However, in 2016, when Salesforce was fighting with several states to defeat bills that appeared to legalize discrimination against gay and transgender people on the basis of religion, Benioff was less impressed. Back then, Benioff criticised Cook for not supporting the efforts to defeat such bills, particularly one in Georgia.

For its part, Apple has adopted protecting consumer privacy as its keystone social issue. It's a self-serving issue to tackle, given that Apple's latest and greatest smartphones use facial scanning technology, leaving the company to reassure customers that the technology isn't creepy.

Now that Apple is a partner to Salesforce, Benioff seems a lot happier with Cook's efforts in matters of gender equality and equal pay — two of Benioff's own pet causes.

Interestingly, during the same speech, Benioff also seemed to give a nod to the big controversy that banged up Salesforce's own image on social issues in recent days: the fact that it supplies services to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The CBP, and companies that do business with it, have come under sharp criticism in the wake of President Donald Trump's zero tolerance policy on immigration, and the controversial policy of family separations.

More than 650 Salesforce employees signed a letter calling the family separation policy “inhumane,” and asked the company to reconsidering its contract with the agency. However, Salesforce insisted that its products were not being used in that effort, and did not end the contract. Benioff did publicly condemn the family separation policy, and said he donated to efforts to help legal efforts to reunite affected families. He also wrote a letter to the White House condemning the situation.

RAICES, a nonprofit that advocates for immigrant rights, publicly refused a donation from Salesforce because of this contract.

On stage on Tuesday, Benioff seemed to recognize the PR hit his company has taken over the situation, subtly addressing by saying that when it comes to social issues, "We’re not perfect. We’re not always going to get it right. Sometimes you have to take a big two-by-four and hit me over the head."

Amid the CBP firestorm, and the storm of controversy otherwise sweeping Silicon Valley over app addiction, the spread of misinformation, and the potentially disruptive effects of artificial intelligence, Benioff also pointed out that the company is currently looking to hire a chief ethical officer who will ensure the "humane" use of its technology.

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